I submitted chapter one of my manuscript to Critique Circle and received great feedback.
The trouble is, most suggestions and comments leaned towards breaking those ‘first chapter rules’.
You know the ones:
- Jump right into the action. Start with action; explain it later–done
- No Back story –done
- No Descriptions –done
- Never open a book with the weather –okay, I didn’t open with the weather but I might have mentioned it. 🙂
- Avoid prologues –done
- Introduce the love interest in the first chapter –done (remember this is a romance novel)
Here is a comment from one critique:
I think you could have told your reader more about Sarah in the very beginning: what grade does she teach? Do teachers normally wear jeans to class? When she walks outside, could you show the name of the school? Could she look in a classroom mirror so we know what she looks like? At least reveal her age?
My dilemma: how do I make people care about Sarah if I’m not allowed to tell them anything about her in the first chapter?
I’ve written this chapter several times and have many different versions. The version I submitted was the rewrite where I jump right into a rape scene. The other versions varied. One offered her physical description, one offered some back story and another went into some detail about her job.
Another problem is, showing and not telling. If I explain ‘tell’ then I get dinged for it, but when I ‘show’—or write from a close perspective most don’t understand what’s happening.
In the beginning scene, Sarah is leaving work and she’s attacked. He knocks her unconscious, drags her into the bushes, and starts ripping her clothes off. If she’s unconscious and the scene is written from her POV then how can I say, ‘she was knocked unconscious and dragged into the bushes’? She wouldn’t wake up and think, ‘I was knocked unconscious and he dragged me into the bushes’, she’d wake up groggy, and confused, and hurt. So I wrote groggy and confused. I felt pretty confidence about the description of her waking up, as I’ve been knocked unconscious a few times and remember very well how I felt when I woke up.
I guess there’s a subtle difference here that I’m not getting. I need to find a way to say it but still stay in her perspective. Maybe I’m just too black and white. Too analytical? It’s either follow the rules, or don’t?
Should I follow the rules, or the comments of the many readers? I’m sure there’s a fine line I’m missing here, so if you see it—PLEASE point me to it!
Forgive my whining above. I wrote this post before Darksculptures critiqued my chapter, and before I did the edits over weekend. I think I found the middle ground but I’m not totally sure. I may re-post on CC and see what I get back.
Thank you, DS! Your feedback made things more clear for me. You were very specific and explained what was missing in way that made sense. Not that the other feedback was useless, most was helpful, but yours illuminated my light bulb.